Committee To Consider When UVA Should Address Political and Social Events

February 7, 2024

(Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

University of Virginia President Jim Ryan has assembled a committee of a dozen members who will consider whether, when, and/or how the University as an institution should weigh in on national or global events occurring outside of the University. 

The goal of the Committee on Institutional Statements is to develop a set of principles that can guide decisions on this topic. 

The formation of the committee follows a discussion during the December Board of Visitors meeting about the University’s role in addressing – or declining to address – political and social issues that could affect students, faculty and staff. The board discussion took place in the context of the war in the Middle East and noted the challenge that university leaders across the nation have faced in deciding whether their institutions should issue statements about the conflict.

Separately, UVA has created an array of academic opportunities to help students, faculty and community members better understand the history of conflict in the Middle East.

The Committee on Institutional Statements includes nine UVA faculty members, one student, one alumnus and one member of the Board of Visitors.

“It seems like a simple question: When, if ever, should ‘the University’ comment on political and social events?” Ryan said. “But answering that question is more complicated than it seems, and it brings up a range of additional questions and knotty issues. I’m grateful to committee chair John Owen and all the members for their willingness to take on this task.”

“The question President Ryan has framed is an important one,” said Owen, the Ambassador Henry J. Taylor and Mrs. Marion R. Taylor Professor of Politics, “and it comes at an important moment. I look forward to working with the committee to develop a useful set of guiding principles that will help focus the University’s thinking and decision-making on this topic.”

In addition to Owen, the committee includes:

  • Melody Barnes, executive director of UVA’s Karsh Institute of Democracy.
  • Kevin Gaines, Julian Bond Professor of Civil Rights and Social Justice; professor of African American history.
  • John Griffin, alumnus; former Board of Visitors member; founder and president of Blue Ridge Capital investment firm.
  • Michael Kennedy, professor of special education; chair of Faculty Senate.
  • Jeanne Liedtka, United Technologies Corporation Professor of Business Administration.
  • Paul Manning, Board of Visitors member; chair and CEO of PBM Capital.
  • Lillian Rojas, fourth-year student; student member of the Board of Visitors.
  • Frederick Schauer, David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law.
  • Allan Stam, University Professor of Public Policy and Politics.
  • Dr. Sana Syed, associate professor of pediatrics.
  • Sarah Turner, University Professor of Economics and Education; Souder Family Professor.

The committee is expected to meet for the first time in February. Owen said he expects the committee to meet several times during the spring semester to discuss and develop the guidelines.

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Mike Mather

Managing Editor University Communications